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Visual Arts

Unchain My heART connects kids with community

The eighth annual Unchain My heART youth art exhibit and sale will kick off Feb. 17 online. (Courtesy)
La Plata Youth Services hosts 8th annual art exhibit and sale

For the eighth year – second virtually – La Plata Youth Services will feature and sell work created by the area’s young artists during the agency’s Unchain My heART exhibit and sale.

And for the kids, it’s a way to connect to the larger community, said Katy Pepinsky, La Plata Youth Services executive director.

“As an organization, one of our key objectives is to build and support youth well-being, and that really focuses on the protective factors of youth, and so we’re really looking at encouraging community connections between youth to their community and building those connections; building self-esteem,” she said. “When we started this event eight years ago, we really saw it as an opportunity to, as an organization, do something in the community that would really help showcase the artistic talents of youth and really celebrate one of the many ways in which youth contribute to our community. And also help youth build connections to community by connecting with adults that are artists, connecting with an art gallery, further connecting with the artistic community.”

The show will kick off online at 4 p.m. Feb. 17, the second year in a row it’s been held virtually thanks to, well, you know. Patrons will have the opportunity to view and buy the young artists’ work, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the artists.

If you go

WHAT: Eighth annual (second virtual) Youth Art Exhibit.

WHEN: Launches at 4 p.m. Feb. 17 and is open through March 3.

WHERE: Online at www.lpys.org/unchainmyheart.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.lpys.org or call 385-4440.

According to its website, LPYS, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1994 by representatives from the community, area school districts, local governments and state entities to provide a continuum of services to at-risk youths and their families in La Plata County.

“Our mission is to provide support and advocacy to youth who are facing challenges either at school, at home or with court involvement,” Pepinsky said.

She said the Unchain My heART program has been a successful event since the beginning,

“In seven years, we have worked with 99 youth artists and have raised more than $6,500 for youth through art scholarships,” she said. “It’s been pretty significant in terms of the number of youth who have participated.”

Along with gaining financial reward for their work, artists also get the chance to work with galleries – including the now-closed Open Shutter Gallery, Durango Arts Center and the R Space at Rochester Hotel – and older artists in the community, Pepinsky said.

“In all those galleries, they supported the youths’ art being for sale and when the youth art sold, 100% of those proceeds went directly back to the artist – in a typical gallery setting, the gallery receives a portion of the proceeds, but the community really has just been incredibly generous in terms of donating space and making sure those proceeds go directly back to the youth,” she said. “And if you can imagine, some of the areas in which we’ve had youths exhibit their art in a professional setting for the first time, the experience of having that sell and sometimes meeting the buyer and getting to hear and have that recognition of how much someone really appreciates and values their art, is a pretty wonderful experience.

“Our goal each year has always been that each youth sells at least one piece of their artwork, and we have maintained that goal, we’ve been able to meet that goal over the last seven years,” she said.

What also makes the exhibit and sale such a fulfilling event is that participating artists do not need to be affiliated with LPYS, said Esther Belin, Restorative Justice Program manager.

“This is really promoting just general youth participation and really celebrating them,” she said. “I think that’s the nicest thing. And that they get 100% of what their purchase price is, I think is also a huge bonus. Really, it’s just to empower them and to encourage them to continue in creative arts.”


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